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The New Arab Staff

Former Iraqi PM faces French lawsuit over protester killings

Adel Abdul Mahdi is accused of responsibility for the killing and injury of protesters [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 April, 2021

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Five Iraqi families have brought a lawsuit in France against Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, alleging that he was responsible for the killing and injury of protesters in 2019.
Five Iraqi families have brought a case against former Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi for his alleged role in the suppression of the anti-government protests, which broke out in Iraq in October 2019.

The protests, which were a response to rampant corruption, poor public services, and unemployment and poverty, were violently put down by Iraqi security forces and thousands of people were killed and injured.

Abdul Mahdi, who had been Iraqi Prime Minister since 2018, resigned in November 2019 in response to the protests, but continued in a caretaker capacity until May 2020.

"The crimes were highly organised and based on government policy to commit attacks on the demonstrators," French law firm Zimmery & Finelle, which represents the families, said in a statement.

"The former PM did not take reasonable measures to prevent these crimes, but rather encouraged them through words, actions, and omissions," the statement said.

"Therefore, he is criminally responsible," it added.

The plaintiffs in the case were either seriously wounded in the protests or lost loved ones.

The case was raised in France because Abdul Mahdi, who is 79, lived in the country from 1969 to 2003, when he returned to Iraq following the overthrow of former dictator Saddam Hussein.

Read more: Iraq Report - Saddam-era defamation laws used to silence dissent

Before the Abdul Mahdi’s resignation, Iraqi security forces and pro-government militias committed several massacres of protesters including one in Sadr City on 7 October 2019, where dozens of people were killed and injured.

A massacre of protesters in Nasiriyah on 29 November, where 44 people were killed, finally forced the former prime minister to step down.

French lawyer Jessica Finelle said in an 80-page report that Abdul Mahdi was unwilling to put a stop to the violence.

"The complaint sends a clear message to the Iraqi authorities: international treaties guaranteeing fundamental rights must be universally accepted… no serious crime should go unpunished," she said in a statement.

"The plaintiffs expect a lot from the French courts, starting with the recognition of their victim status," Finelle added.

Abdul Mahdi's successor, current Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi has vowed to protect the right to peaceful protest and punish members of the security forces responsible for killing protesters, but to date no prosecutions have been brought in Iraq.

On Wednesday, Iraq announced that it had detained five policemen pending investigation of their alleged role in killing and injuring protesters in Nasiriyah in February 2021 but activists expressed disappointment that more senior officials were not arrested.

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